Ravel & Debussy: String Quartets (CD)

Decca
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4816906
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Tinalley String Quartet

Internationally acclaimed for its ‘addictive sound’ and ‘intuitive’ music-making, the Tinalley String Quartet has established itself as one of Australia’s finest classical music exports.

The Tinalley String Quartet has toured throughout Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States, appearing in such prestigious venues as the Vienna Musikverein, Berlin Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Frankfurt AlteOper. In Australia, the group presents an annual recital Series at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre and performs regularly at the nation’s premier festivals including the Adelaide Festival; Perth International Arts Festival; Canberra International Music Festival; Melbourne International Arts Festival; Huntington Festival; Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Port Fairy Spring Music Festival and the Coriole Music Festival. The quartet is currently ‘Quartet in Residence’ at the Coriole Music Festival and it will begin a new relationship with the University of Queensland in 2018 as ‘Ensemble in Residence’.

In addition to performing the great pillars of the quartet repertory, the ensemble has a passion for collaborating with artists outside of the classical sphere. Such projects have included ‘Beethoven’s Letters’ with actors John Bell and John Stanton; two commissions that combined the talents of singer/songwriter Lior and composers Nigel Westlake and Ade Vincent; and in 2018, a new commission by Nigel Westlake of Compassion for Octet and Voice.

TINALLEY STRING QUARTET: Adam Chalabi (violin I); Lerida Delbridge (violin II); Justin Williams (viola); Michelle Wood (cello)

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Tracklisting:

CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Quatour à cordes, Op. 10

1. I Animé et très decide
2. II Assez vif et bien rythmé
3. III Andantino, doucement expressif 4 IV Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion

MAURICE RAVEL : Quatour à cordes

5. I Allegro moderato – Très doux
6. II Assez vif – Très rythmé
7. III Très lent
8 IV Vif et agité

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Detailed, characterful and musical performances of two great French quartets

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These two French string quartets are often linked, though they were written ten years apart: the Debussy in 1893 and the Ravel in 1903. It is true that they are similar in form: both have scherzo movements employing the pizzicato technique, both have languid slow movements, and both finales are formally fragmentary. Yet there are differences too. Ravel remains attached to Classical models while Debussy as ever goes his own way. For instance, despite their similarities, Debussy's scherzo movement strikes me as an impressionistic representation of a guitar-accompanied serenade; Ravel's is an abstract dance built on complex cross-rhythms.

The internationally acclaimed Australian ensemble Tinalley String Quartet gives impressive performances. These musicians are very detailed, but the listener is always aware of the musical sense behind their decisions. Like the greatest quartets they are on the same page expressively, playing as one. Highlights for me are the second movement of Debussy's Quartet (Assez vif et bien rythmé) and the slow movement of the Ravel (Trés lent). In the first, the Tinalley strike the perfect tempo and maintain it––their rhythm is so precise I was not surprised to read that they often work with musicians outside the classical arena. They treat Ravel's slow movement as an exotic soundscape, bringing the fastidious composer's textures to life. I have never heard the section with cello solo and shadowy 'comments' from the other instruments played with such character.

There are many recordings of these quartets, old and new, and the only possible drawback here is that it is a short program. Some discs add an extra quartet by another composer. Balancing that are the high quality and compelling individuality of the Tinalley Quartet's readings.